The Leopards men’s soccer team won their rival game over Lehigh 1-0 in front of a raucous crowd during homecoming weekend on Saturday, Oct. 13. Lafayette then suffered a loss on Tuesday against non-conference opponent, Rutgers. Lafayette, which gave some of its key players a break that game, lost 4-1.
The victory over Lehigh marked the Leopard’s first Patriot League win of the season, as they capitalized on their best opportunity of the contest to score the deciding goal. After junior forward Dylan Royalty narrowly missed a header, the Mountain Hawks were charged with a hand ball in the box, leading to a penalty kick.
Junior midfielder Chris Gomez scored with a shot on the penalty kick to beat the Lehigh goaltender, giving Lafayette the 1-0 lead. That goal would prove to be the difference, as the Leopard defense turned in a shutout performance to seal the victory. Gomez’s goal was his fourth of the season, moving him into a tie with junior forward James Gibson for the team lead.
Freshman goalkeeper Alex Sutton had an excellent day in net, registering four saves on the afternoon including a point-blank opportunity to stuff Lehigh forward Mark Forrest, one of the Patriot League’s top scorers. The shutout was Sutton’s fifth of the season, and was aided by strong defensive efforts from senior Joe DeStefano, juniors Christian Williams and Diego Gomera-Tavarez, and sophomore Andrew Venezia.
During the Rutgers game, junior midfielder Ryan Goncalves stayed on the field and ended up scoring the Leopards’ only goal early in the first half, which was also his first goal of the season. Although only one of their shots reached the back of the net, the team matched Rutgers with 10 shots total, six of them on goal. Goncalves was not just the lone goal scorer of the game, but he also had three of the six shots on goal.
Notable players of the match include Goncalves, freshman midfielder Will Echeverria, and senior caption and defender Joe DeStefano. Echeverria made a throw-in into the box that was deflected, which allowed for Goncalves to take a shot and score. Similar to Goncalves, DeStefano also did not get a break, which now means his consecutive minutes played in the 2018 season is 1,240.
DeStefano was also recently named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week, which he attributes the support from his teammates.
“The entire back four, along with [freshman goalkeeper] Alex Sutton and [freshman forward] Nick Hazel, have been playing great recently and we all have done well covering for each others mistakes,” DeStefano said. “Our communication with each other has been key in performing in high pressure situations.”
The Leopards’ next match will be away against Patriot League opponent Colgate tomorrow. Both teams are vying for a spot in the Patriot League tournament.
Goncalves says he feels the team has a “good chance going forward in league play.” He said he believes if they play to maximum capability and find ways to score, the team will be where they want to be at the end of the season.
DeStefano also said he believes the team will be able to accomplish their season goals and make it to the tournament.
“Colgate will be a good test for us but I am very confident we can leave with three points,” he said.
The Maroon and White will head up to Hamilton, N.Y., with a record of 5-5-3 overall and 1-2-2 in Patriot League play.